Tuesday, June 29, 2010

God Crafts Man-Fishers

18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20At once they left their nets and followed him.
21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-22

Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, James, and John to Himself, and they immediately come and begin following him.

Notice that "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" contains three action phrases:
Come = one time decision
Follow me = ongoing decision to continue, step after step, day after day
Make you = God's craftsmanship that forms us into man-fishers

The second and third are ongoing, not one-time events. And see the symmetry? We follow; God makes us. God is faithfully ("I will," he says) doing His part in this as we follow Jesus. He does not instantly create us into master man-fishers, but makes us into this over time.

It greatly encourages us to remember that God isn't done with us yet. We're not responsible for making ourselves into anything, that's what God does. (See also John 15:1-17 about abiding in Christ and bearing fruit.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If You Want to See Change...

Over and over again we want to see positive changes -- in our weight, fitness, relationships, godliness, bank account, abilities to teach well, etc.

There are just three things needed to see positive changes:

1. Vision for the future, improved state. You'll be thinner and able to run a 5 minute mile, out of debt, in the Word every morning, and perfectly in tune with your spouse and children and even that cranky co-worker.

2. Desire for change. You actually want to change. You actually want to be that person with the improvements over where you are now.

3. Follow-through on the means to make the change. You need to eat less, exercise more, change your spending and saving patterns, talk with your spouse on a regular basis, and open the Bible every morning and do more than skimming your eyeballs across the page. Thinking about these things and wishing things does not make them happen. Failing to act differently means failing to make positive changes.

You need all three for positive change.
No vision + Desire + Means = activity without directed purpose
Vision - Desire + Means = unwillingness to continue
Vision + Desire - Means = wishful thinking and fantasies

You can use this framework to help yourself diagnose where you're falling short, or when you're coaching someone else.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Consider Netflix vs. Cable TV

I spoke recently with a man who turned off his cable TV account and starting using Netflix. He misses the sports channels, but otherwise is content. I found one of his reasons especially significant: there's more accountability! If he watches something on Netflix, his whole family will see it listed as "recently watched." This helps him with the temptation to watch things he knows he shouldn't, even if no one else is around.

You probably know that Netflix has the DVD mailing service. Their "watch instantly" offerings continue to expand. Though there's plenty of marginal content, and movies I think men should avoid, there is also a wealth of good material and documentaries. We watch via our computers, but you can purchase inexpensive devices to route the content to your TV so it's easier to watch as a group.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Using Twitter as a Means of Influence

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson and a real thought leader for using media effectively, talks about Twitter as a leadership tool.

How Can Christian Leaders Get Started with Social Media? from Michael Hyatt on Vimeo.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why You Need to Stay Humble and Faithful

Good counsel here, from a Q&A on leadership with Ron Edmondson:

If you could give one piece of advise to young leaders from what you've learned by experience, what would it be?
You are not as smart as you think you are. Therefore, stay humble. You have more potential than you can possibly imagine. Therefore, remain faithful. Keep growing, and be patient. Your time will come.

-- Michael Hyatt

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day, men!

Keep on doing what is right and good, however tough or inconvenient. You're not perfect, but strive for authenticity with your family as a man serving the Lord.

People need you! "You are not your own, you were bought at a price." (1 Cor 16)

By the way, this is the 100th anniversary of Father's Day celebrations -- it was first celebrated in 1910.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How I Respond to Discouraged Teachers

"Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 5:42)

I've been corresponding with several discouraged teachers in the past few weeks. "No one is learning," one wrote, "so I'm giving it up." Another said, "They don't want to hear anything challenging, just the rah-rah-Christians-are-great stuff. I won't teach that way, so I'm thinking I should go to XYZ church instead." A third wrote this week, "Our minister wants to me to teach the same intro class all the time, and I'm tired of it." Another woman wrote me candidly expressing her frustration this way: "If I don't hear someone say thank you they can just find someone else to do it!"

Just yesterday I talked with a man who seemed convinced that if ministry was hard then God wasn't in it and he should move on. (I suggested he check that perspective against Scripture - it's not a biblical perspective at all.)

Teaching is often tough, challenging, gut-twisting work. There are times and cirumstances where you don't see much fruit. You may not hear appreciation. You may feel forced into situations that aren't your chosen ideal.

Perhaps you need a season of rest. Perhaps you need to seek out a different teaching situation.


I won't judge you if you do, that's not my perogative.

But I will say, in most situations, you and I need to stand firm, confident in the power of the Lord, working hard and spending ourselves on behalf of others. It's a calling. It's a level of commitment that means we have to (as marathon runners say) "take the pain and tuck it away somewhere" until the race is done. We're part of God's work to beat back the darkness, did you think it will always be easy?

Read that Acts 5:42 passage again. This was how they behaved after they were beaten and abused by the authorities.

Keep on teaching to change lives! And encourge your fellow teachers to do likewise, for the glory of God.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why the Church is Like a Magnifying Glass

I really liked this analogy from Chris Brauns: the local church is like a magnifying glass. Check it out. Here's an excerpt:

"Put the burning material down on the sidewalk and then use the magnifying glass to focus a beam of sunlight onto the material. You will be amazed at how quickly smoke begins to curl away. My boys and I do this and we think it great. Jamie rolls her eyes.

You know: the magnifying glass does not provide any power of its own. It serves only to direct the power of the sun. But, when it does, it brings light to a burning focus and things ignite.

That is what the local church is supposed to do. By itself, the church, God’s people, do not offer any power. But, a church is like a magnifying glass that God uses to focus and direct His power."

What a great way to pray for yourself, your family, your church: Lord, make me a magnifying glass that concentrates your power in a way that creates results the whole world will see -- and glorify you!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Porn as a Narcotic -- On Women, Too

The neurochemistry of pornography addiction is remarkable, powerful, terrifying. You can learn more about it in this article, "How Pornography Drugs & Changes Your Brain."

Porn is a multibillion $ industry, and therefore track the demographics of their customers closely. We used to think about porn as a guy's issue. No more. The fastest growing demographic for porn consumption - and perhaps 1/3 of paying customers by some accounts! - are women from 18-38.

You see, the neurochemistry is the same for women.

Guys, I highly encourage you to watch this video about one woman's situation:

Get some accountability in your life. Battle this crap. "You are not your own, your were bought at a [HIGH!] price."

Learning from Experience

You'd think we would get this right but we often don't.

Part of encouraging one another and training our children is learning from experience.

This certainly operates at the individual level, but don't neglect the opportunities help yourself, your peers, and your families to learn from experience, too. That's why the study of history is so valuable.

Want to learn a few things about how governments and societies respond to terrorism and corruption? You would do well to review the Peloponnesian War. Want to forecast the impacts of political and economic decisions? Nearly everything has been tried before in some form, and it rarely works out differently because different people are involved this time. Even recent history is helpful -- see this excellent article about the painful lessons from Massachusetts health care, which has all the key elements of the health insurance legislation the US Congress passed.

As my friend says, "The problem is not that we shot ourselves in the foot. The problem is how fast we reloaded and fired again!"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Learning from the Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is a remarkable project - over 1400 videos and growing, one guy teaching on subjects like math, chemistry, biology, history, finance, economics, etc. It's a tremendous resource from a very good teacher, amplified by technology.

I checked a few videos on topics I'm reasonably good at, and a few where I personally struggle, and was impressed in both areas.

This would be an excellent resource for:
  • Parents helping their kids learn a tough subject
  • Teens capable of self-directed learning to tackle a subject
  • Adults who need a refresher on a topic
  • Adults who never really learned XYZ and would like to now

P.S. I wonder if someone could create a corresponding library of videos for Christian instruction?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Highly Recommended Book: The Masculine Mandate

I give this book my highest recommendation. The Masculine Mandate, by Richard D. Phillips is an outstanding and practical analysis of Genesis. He writes plainly, directly, and without slop.

Phillips corrects a number of misconceptions from the "Wild at Heart" series that concern me.

You can learn more about Phillips here.

If you lead men's Bible studies, if you're involved in men's ministry, if you just need a readable and trustworthy assessment of the biblical role of men -- get this book.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Media Choices Rewire Our Brains

Nicholas Carr gives us some insights into how our media choices are rewiring our brains. See his article "The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains." The easy availability of information via the Internet is having an unintended consequence that we become more distracted and shallower thinkers.

Here is how Carr ends the article:

"There’s nothing wrong with absorbing information quickly and in bits and pieces. We’ve always skimmed newspapers more than we’ve read them, and we routinely run our eyes over books and magazines to get the gist of a piece of writing and decide whether it warrants more thorough reading. The ability to scan and browse is as important as the ability to read deeply and think attentively. The problem is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for further study, it’s becoming an end in itself—our preferred method of both learning and analysis. Dazzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture.

"What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting."

As leaders, I recommend that we give this serious thought. We need to create learning opportunities that develop different kinds of cognitive skill, so that we and our children and their children will have both breadth and depth of thinking.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

D-Day Anniversary

Today we remember D-Day, the beginning of the end of WWII in Europe. This PBS site has some remarkable facts about D-Day. I didn't know these:

* An invading army had not crossed the unpredictable, dangerous English Channel since 1688

* Louisiana entrepreneur Andrew Jackson Higgins first designed shallow-draft boats in the late 1920s to rescue Mississippi River flood victims.

* Captured Germans were sent to American prisoner of war camps at the rate of 30,000 POWs per month from D-Day until Christmas 1944. Thirty-three detention facilities were in Texas alone.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Advantage of Legalism

The advantage of legalism is that you never have to grow up and become mature. You don't have to be discerning. You can remain selfish and self-righteous. You can keep all your pride.

Think about that. Think about why God doesn't call us to legalism.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Wrong Teaching on Suicide

This is a cross-post from my Teach To Change Lives blog. -- Glenn


Teachers, let's correct some common but flat-out wrong teaching on suicide.

These verses have been incorrectly used to say that suicide is an unforgivable sin:

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." (1 Cor 3:16-17)

Check the context of these verses: they're part of a long passage where Paul is speaking about divisions in the church, and body life.

Also, the English word "you" can mean either an individual or a group. If the context wasn't clear enough, the actual Greek word used here clearly indicates that "you" refers to a group, NOT an individual.

So do not allow people, however sincere, to justify some wrong idea about suicide from these two verses taken out of context.

If I may speak briefly about the issue of suicide, the key issue is always going to be the relationship with Jesus. Suicide is self-murder, and therefore is a sin. But the blood of Jesus covers all sin for those who are redeemed and made a child of God, a new creation. There are far too many situations and factors with suicide to make blanket statements about the state of their soul after death -- except that the redeemed sinner will be in heaven.

Roadmap for America's Future

I heartily recommend Representative Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America's Future to you. (The full PDF article is 87 pages and well-written.)

This Roadmap describes very specific proposals for making changes in federal law on health care, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, individual and corporate taxes, and job training programs. There is clear information here, data to support their recommendations, trendlines (less likely to be cherry-picked data) and projections, and specific example legislation that doesn't run two thousand pages.

Even if you might have a knee-jerk negative response to a Republican proposal, I encourage you to look at this as a model for how to present recommendations. These are complicated issues with impacts experienced over long periods of time. Much of our political communication has been denigrated into sound-bites, which are wholly inadequate for dialogue on issues like these.

I'd like a future version to include revisions to the federal spending on education, housing loan supports, and subsidies.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

It's About the Doing

"Many people know what to do, but few people do what they know." -- Tony Robbins

When we're honest with ourselves, we recognize there's a significant gap between what we know to do, and what we do.

What will you do to close just one knowing-doing gap today?